Show us a black cape, a brooding castle and a dust-covered coffin, and we all know what it means—Count Dracula can’t be far away. The Transylvanian vampire has altered the cultural landscape since Irish author Bram Stoker penned the novel Dracula in 1897.
But Dracula has also altered the financial landscape, as Paul Bibeau (Col ’92) explains in his humorous new book Sundays with Vlad: From Pennsylvania to Transylvania, One Man’s Quest to Live in the World of the Undead.
When Bibeau searched the U.S. Patent and Trademark databases, for instance, he unearthed 85 trademarks and 73 patents tied to Dracula. He also found that, for less than $300, you can have a custom set of fangs made in the back of a New York Halloween shop. These arcane facts, and many more, enliven the book’s 292 pages.
Sundays with Vlad was an outgrowth of an assignment for Maxim magazine to learn why a proposed Dracula theme park in Romania never got off the ground (a trip that he says “ruined his honeymoon”). But Bibeau’s fascination with the subject matter began decades earlier.
“I became the odd little kid who’s in love with monsters,” he writes. “I loaded up on books about vampires and werewolves at the school library. In the morning, I’d take the books back and promise myself I’d never read them again, and [then I’d] check them out again the very next week.”
As an author, he wanted to explore and explain our fascination with the undead. He also delved into the real-life Dracula, a 15th-century European prince named Vlad Dracula—also known as Vlad the Impaler. Vlad, who lived in what is now Romania, got his nickname from the alleged pleasure he took in dispatching his enemies through the particularly painful method of impalement.
But as Bibeau was to learn, truth in such matters is often elusive. “Getting to the bottom of the real Vlad is like peeling an onion,” he says. “There’s one truth under another. When you read about Vlad, you’re reading stories written by his worst enemies. Even the stuff we think is true might not be true.” There’s no strong evidence, for instance, that Vlad drank blood, says Bibeau.
“The problem with history is that it’s written by people who might not be right. Add to this a layer of propaganda and a layer of Hollywood, and it’s really difficult to figure out what the truth is,” he adds. “But the legend has taken on a life of its own and created a pop culture.”